If life-changing travel is on your 2016 to-do list, Up in the Air Life creator Claire Soares has you covered. This Black travel tastemaker has traveled the globe creating unique experiences for professionals from dinner in Thailand’s most legendary rooftop to organizing a trip to see Janet Jackson perform in Paris this spring. She turned her love of travel and organizing into a community of more than 10,000 global travelers. See her top travel tips and three destinations she thinks every Black women should visit.
Name: Claire Soares
Title: Founder and Chief Experience Maker of Up In the Air Life
Location: An airplane or airport lounge
Hometown: Woodbridge, VA
The gig: With Up In the Air Life, I curate international excursions and magical experiences for professionals and provide insight for our online community. In 2015 we hosted seven trips including Yacht Week in Croatia and Greece, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia and Thailand. We offer fully hosted trips and someone on my team is on every trip. We always give swag bags and surprises along the way, like dinner at Red Sky Bangkok, one of the world’s best rooftop experiences, or upgrades to first class.
The journey: I've been creating trips since high school. I was class president and planned a trip from Virginia to New Jersey for more than 100 seniors to go to Six Flags, so this has been in my blood. I went to school for computer science and continued planning trips for friends. After graduation, I worked for Lockheed Martin as a test engineer and would write user manuals and test software. While traveling as an adult I saw a gap in the market for people like me who wanted incredible experiences, like flying in an airplane over Dubai, which is something I did with friends. I planned a trip to Yacht Week in Croatia in 2014 for friends and decided to make this a business. I still have a day job now in sales. The goal is to be able to do full time.
Her top travel tips: Get a travel credit card. Any card that you're getting airline points would be a good benefit because you can put your monthly spending on the card, pay it off and that will translate over to points. If you sign up for an airline card, you'll often get a 50,000-point bonus just by putting $3,000 in the card the first three months. That bonus is basically almost two domestic round-trip tickets.
Look into lounge membership. If you're doing a lot of international travel, look into the lounge membership through Priority Pass or you can buy the Lounge Membership Card on eBay.
Dress in layers and BYOsnack. Food on an airplane is so salt-laden and not healthy. Grab a salad or good meal at the airport and then take it with you on your flight. Bring nuts and fruit.
Places Every Black Woman Should Experience: Bahia, Brazil. It’s also called Salvador. I just love that place. There's a lot of brown people, beautiful beaches and culture there. Everyday at sunset everyone claps. For $20, you can sit on the beach and drink all day. The people are so nice.
Cartagena, Colombia. This place is near and dear to my heart. They have a nice, strong African heritage, and right outside is a state called Palenque. Palenque is actually a UNESCO protected place and it's the only colony that was built by African freed slaves that still exists. They've been free longer than Black Americans. They have their own language and their story is amazing. The people there are just so gracious.
Rome and Florence, Italy. As a Black woman in America, sometimes it feels you're not celebrated as much as other women. Italy was definitely somewhere where I felt like as a Black woman you get a lot of attention. To go somewhere with people with fair skin, where they are really checking for you was just an eye-opener. The other reason why I like
Italy is because if you grow up in America, you learn a lot about Rome, Caesar and the Vatican, and it was special to see all that history in person, while feeling desired.
Her favorite travel memory: My first trip to Paris. I went alone, did the Fat Tire Bike Tour of the city and took a nap at the Eiffel Tower.
Confessions of a travel entrepreneur: As a business owner, people respect you when you keep your word. And if something doesn't go right, fix it. I remember overhearing a client on a trip tell someone that she had a transportation issue and that I brought a bottle of champagne to her room. People remember what you do to make it right.
Her beauty bag: my favorite product is lip gloss. I use a stay-on red lipstick as my go-to lipstick.
Her travel bag: I like to travel with backpack rollers and my favorite brand is Flip Gear. They have a nice extended, it's like a bookpack roller with backpack straps. I like to be light.
Her travel anthems: When I'm walking through the airport, I listen to Rihanna’s So Hard. It gets me pumped. When I land, I almost always listen to Usher's song, Daddy's Home. I’m back to see my dog and loved ones.